(May contain spoilers but seriously, the game has been out for twenty years).
Final Fantasy VI was released in 1994 for the SNES later developed for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. The game is set in an unknown land with the most advanced country known as the Empire (imaginative, no?) ruled by Emperor Gestahl. Set in a steam-punk environment, the game draws parallels with the structure of 19th century Victoria era (love of the opera and art) but with railways and steamships. Sounds pretty awesome right?
‘We have a dog’ ‘I have a robot’.
It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without some form of magic. This is where Magitek comes in, a combination of magic and technology that can be wielded by the everyday man. Throughout the game, players will encounter these fierce combos alongside the standard monsters. Each character has a class, useful in their own way and also vulnerable to certain attacks. Choose your team wisely. And whatever you do, don’t train Aerith! Wait, that’s the game after this one… Meh, the point still stands.
Anyway, the player starts with a brief introduction to the back story of the game. A few thousand years ago, the War of the Magi turned the world into a wasteland and magic stopped existing. Now, to combat this issue the crazy Emperor Gestahl looked to the Espers for a source of magic. Espers are the only beings that can wield magic. The Esper and Human world used to be cut off from each other. However, Gestahl was a bit of dick and weakened the barrier between the worlds. He now works to capture Espers to control their power.
The player begins as an unknown girl accompanied by two soldiers (Biggs and Wedge) who don’t fight for you get attached to them. Maybe do a party dance when they die (spoilers? The game has been out for twenty years). Anyhow, the mission to get the Esper goes way south and the main character is revealed to be controlled by a slave crown that abuses the use of her powers. Apparently the Empire was trying to dodge a pay scheme.
Biggs and Wedge, the Sean Beans of FF.
And then you begin the ensemble of characters with tragic backgrounds. If the character doesn’t have a dead amnesiac lover or didn’t exist in the first place, then you’re not in a Final Fantasy game. Square Enix really loves tiny violins. Each character has their different specialties that help in certain battles or against particular enemies. You have:
Terra Branford (protagonist) – An amnesiac half-esper and half human woman. Has the highest magic stats and is a fairly capable fighter. She also has an Esper form which doubles her stats for a while.
Locke Cole (or Tragic McTragicsen as I like to call him) – Lost his amnesiac lover to the empire. Thief class, use him when you want to spam the shit out of items.
Celes Chere – A genetically enhance Magitek knight and betrayed by the Empire. Celes has very similar to Terra in abilities but has slightly different equipment.
Edgar Figaro – King of a failing Kingdom. Ninja class with the ability to steal and throw items. You have to invest a lot of money in his weapons but once who train him up; he has pretty high hit rates.
Sabin Figaro – Edwards twin brother with a massive inferiority complex. Warrior Monk class, high physical stats but tends to get destroyed by magic. He has an ability called Blitz and can learn a multiple number of them to destroy enemies.
Cyan Garamonde – A Samurai from the kingdom of Doma. He has high strength and defence but low speed and magic. Cyan learns a new Bushido each time he levels up.
Shadow – A former thief known as Clyde. Assassin class with the ability to throw items which you have to invest a lot of money in. Shadow is a fairly weak character but useful in some occasions.
Gau – A feral child whose father believed him to be a demon. His ability is Rage, where he can learn the attacks of monsters. However, during Rage, the player cannot control Gau and what attacks he performs.
Setzer Gabbiani – A gambler with a love of chance and women. He is fairly average in stats apart from a high defence.
Strago Magus – Blue mage class with high magic but low strength stats.
Realm Arrowny – Stargo’s adoptive granddaughter. Has the highest magic stat and the ability Sketch where she can draw a replica of the enemy.
Mog – A moogle that helps out Terra. Dancer/Geomancer with the ability of Dance that randomly attacks enemies but deals heavy damage.
Gogo – Is an optional character and a mime. He/she has the ability of Mimic which replicates the last move performed by a party member. However, he/she has quite bad stats.
Umaro – Another optional character and a yeti (yeah, you read that right). He has the highest HP, strength and defence. However, magic will beat the shit out of him. Also, he is a Berserker class and the player can only influence is attacks.
All the characters!
Yup, fourteen frickin’ characters. To be fair, some of them are bonus characters that you don’t even have to unlock. The player can drift through the game and ignore them, some aren’t worth having. But if you’re anything like me, I want to side-track the main story and find about everyone ever. Some characters have good attributes but others get a bit repetitive.
After Final Fantasy IX, the playable characters didn’t go beyond eight characters. Previous games had too many with the same abilities that some players wouldn’t even use. Granted, a couple of character sometimes buggered off or got turned to stone so it forced players to switch out. Of recent years, Square Enix has kept playable characters to a minimum of seven. This way, the player doesn’t have a repeat of classes and endless amounts of back-story.
Early FF games had maps that the player had to travel across. For the most recent games, players have been able to travel through rather imaginative places rather travel through huge fields. I mean really basic maps like ‘this is the forest, this is the cave and these are the villages’. You also look like Godzilla compared to the tiny houses.
I am your destruction!
I always have trouble with the maps since they aren’t always clearly set out. It’s a minor fault I have with the development. The player sometimes spends a lot of unnecessary time faffing around trying to find the right place. It doesn’t help that most of map is similar in texture. Obviously, in the nineties didn’t give developers much leeway in design. Still, it’s a small frustration that niggles at me.
Maybe I’m just rubbish at navigating?
The battle-system is very much caught between FF4 and a prelude to how FF7’s developed. So basically, it can be bloody annoying. Turn based battle systems can be risky. With this one, the player can build up all their attacks but get stomped by a monster in one move. It is annoy at times when the player believes they get to strike at least once.
Not only to lose all that build up, all the characters die at once. I don’t know about you but a little part of me dies each time that happens. The player is then taken back to their last save. Which is a bit of bitch if you haven’t saved in a while. Key piece of advice: always save the game! When you have the chance, save it! Do not regret your life decisions like me.
Isn’t he pretty?
And now, for the villain of the piece, Kefka. Now, I was a child of Final Fantasy VII with Clouds conflicting memories, Tifas huge boobs and not leveling up Aerith. It wasn’t until my teenager self discovered the joys of VI. Despite the clunky maps, pixel avatars and vast number characters, it has one of the best villains out of the entire franchise. He has a memorable and terrifying laugh.
At the beginning of the game, the player is lead to believe that Gestahl is the antagonist. He’s the guy that kidnapped Terra as a baby and enslaved her. Also, destroying the Espers for their power. So, yeah, you kind of believe the emperor is the bad guy. His right hand man is General Kefka, who doesn’t wear a soldier uniform, preferring to take casual Friday a step further by wearing a jester outfit. Gestahl aims to walk into the Esper realm and gain more power by waking the Warring Triad. These are three gods that came down to Earth and put a stop to the Magi war.
Having seen the destruction of their power on the world, the gods agreed to seal the power away. After cleaning up everyone’s mess, the gods decided to take a well earned rest. Of course, their last words were ‘never must we be woken’. What does Gestahl want to do? Yup, gain absolute power by waking up three gods. He would be the first guy to press the big, red button which is marked ‘do not press’. Now, this is where the game gets interesting. The player believes that Gestahl will gain absolute power and stomp out the world. But Kefka decides ‘nope, ain’t having that’ and throws the emperor off the edge of a floating continent. Gestahl should have expecting this since Kefka never passed his trust exercises with the other bad guys.
After appreciating his handy work, Kefka takes the power of the warring triad and ascends to godhood. Which is pretty badass when you look at it. Kefka is a cold, calculating and flamboyant. He hates humanity, loves to see suffering in others and wants to destroy the world. Which he frickin’ does! Out of all the villain’s in the FF series, Kefka creates himself a goal and completes it! He would be the ideal employee. Apart from the psychopath problem. And the need to kill everyone. Expect that, he’s a perfect gentleman.
If your friend dresses as a clown for fun, you might want to leg it.
The style of the game differs depending on which version you which to play. The SNES version has awkward pixels blending in with the painted backwards. The remake has worked to smooth everything out and make it shiny. Which is fantastic if you’re a magpie. Naturally, Square Enix didn’t want to remake it from scratch and worked with what they had. For aesthetic purposes, both games have their share of problems.
Of course, I didn’t hate the drawings. It’s difficult for games in 1994 to age well. It’s the luxury of comparing FF6 to modern games. I did like the imaginative designs and bosses. The sprites were always pretty close ups of the main characters. The player just has to be reminder that there is only so much developers can do. The old design is something that you can ignore if the game is either good enough or you just don’t care.
It just looks really smooth.
Final Fantasy games also take you on a huge journey where you bond with the characters, grind to level up and become vaguely frustrated. The player always endures some cut scenes. It wouldn’t be an FF game without monster cut scenes, FF13 frickin’ loved them. FF6, however, has some particularly good ones. My favourite scenes that made the game for me was the opera and the phantom train.
And that’s how you join a cult.
For the opera, the player doesn’t do much. The aim of it is to get the attention of Setzer, the owner of the only functional airship. The gang come up with the good idea of disguising Celes as the opera singer that Setzer is in love with. The player has to pay close attention through the ten minutes in order to prompt Celes into singing the right line. Apparently she can sing as well as stab people.
Cyan, Sabin and Shadow accidentally board the train and have to fight in order to get off it. When I find a random train in the middle of a forest, my first thought is ‘better get on that. What can go wrong?’ The aim of this mission is to get off the train before the characters go steaming towards the afterlife. With this mission, you learn more about the protagonists and watch them bond over their tragic past. Never play it with the sound off. The music is bloody awesome adding to the already creepy atmosphere. Among this are the fairly awesome items that you can obtain too.
The awesome music doesn’t stop there. There is the experience of Kefkas circus like theme, the very nineties battle music and Terrans sweet but strong melody. Each piece is tailored to shoot a buzz through the player. When you hear the battle music, you’re ready to punch some bad guys in the face.
So, there it is. Final Fantasy VI, a game tragic character and an awesome villain. It has its faults but they are easily over looked for the story line and bonding to the characters. Due to Kefka’s fabulous nature, it was hard for me to stay mad at him. But he’s the villain and the player kind of has to bitch slap him into next Tuesday. Its game that you have experience for the awesome phantom train, hilarious one-liners and haunting music. Join me next week where I will be revisiting Urban Chaos.